When Rosevine, Texas, farrier Ralph Hampton meets someone for the first time, you can bet the topic will eventually turn to horses.
“I just make it a habit to ask, ‘Do you have any horses?’” he says. “The woman behind the counter might say, ‘Yeah, my husband is a team roper.’ ‘Well, here’s my card.’ She might reply, ‘Oh, we have so-and-so.’ I just tell them to keep it in case ol’ so-and-so quits.”
Hampton admits that some of his colleagues don’t like, nor understand why he’s adamant about marketing his hoof-care practice.
“They get plumb mad at me,” he says. “They ask, ‘Do you ever quit marketing? And the answer is no! We’re constantly marketing, because I never know what’s going to happen. One of my clients might get sick and sell all their horses, and boom, I’m out $20,000 a year. So, I have to replace that.”
Traditionally, business slows down during the winter, which makes Hampton a bit anxious.
“Right before Christmas until February, I probably won’t do 30% of my backyard clients because there’s an old wives tale that they don’t have to be done during the winter. If I get three drop off in a day, boy I’m on Facebook trying to replace them. Customers don’t just happen. You have to develop them.”
One way he develops them is by constantly populating his Facebook timeline with posts to educate current and potential clients. Here’s an example of one such post.
Most Owners Just Want The Shoes To Stay On
I've always said trimming and shoeing horses was a ridiculous way for a grown man to make a living. Think about it for a moment. Farriers spend their days trimming and filing and burnishing hairy beasts’ hoof capsules.
Isn’t that what happens at any local nail salon? When you ladies go to these salons you want to be pampered, cared for, your fingernails made to look pretty, even and clean?
And ... you want a good job, right?
By far my most asked question is, “Are those shoes gonna stay on Thunder’s feet?” I believe 99% of all farriers nail shoes on with the full expectation of them staying put for a certain length of time ... say 6 weeks or so. I can’t vouch for the other 1%, but I know I expect my shoes to stay on and sometimes they just don’t.
Unbalanced feet, weak shelly hoof wall, odd shapes such as excessive flares and of course, our old nemesis, long toe/low heel. All culprits in the game of lost shoes and any one of these circumstances are irritating, frustrating and time consuming, because I’m the guy responsible for nailing on, so I’m the guy responsible for keeping them on.
What are your criteria for a good, lasting shoe job? JUST having the shoes stay on? Pretty, shiny feet? Thunder not limping when the farrier sets his foot down?
I realize that most of you as owners don’t have the passion for functional feet that most farriers do, but surely you want and expect more from a shoe job than the steel merely not flinging off the hoof when you ride, right? C’mon, admit it ... you honestly don’t value the worth of your farrier by how many weeks the steel stays on, do you?
You shouldn’t and here is why. Your farrier should know WHY some shoes come off. He or she should be able to perform at the very least basic GOOD shoeing and trimming practices. Your farrier should know HOW to trim or shoe Thunder so that your horse is comfortable in his or her new footwear and that the shoes stay on for a reasonable amount of time.
After all, we farriers are so often judged by how long the shoes last on Thunder’s feet and how cheaply we can nail ’em on. Seriously? Wouldn’t you much rather have knowledge, dedication and commitment from whoever shoes or trims your horse?
The truth is, I’d probably do this job for free. I don’t HAVE to do this job. I GET to do it and every day when I’m faced with a new challenge or a brand new to me concept, I’m thrilled. I love what I do and I’m proud of how I do this job. Owners should care enough to realize that I am always trying to make my work better. Not just slapping some steel on and collecting a check.
Oh ... scratch that thing about “free.” I like getting paid!